Watching people at the market today I was struck by how many look sad, angry, anxious...joyless. All this sadness in the midst of such abundance. When will we learn that stuff - food, possessions, money, etc. - will not bring happiness? It's by giving ourselves away that we discover our joy.
A couple walked past my table today looking absolutely miserable. As they passed, I heard the lady say, "There's nothing that we've denied ourselves. Nothing." I believe they were speaking in reference to having seen all there is to see at the market, and yet, having "done it all" they still appeared to be so unhappy. Perhaps the one thing that they had denied themselves was the chance to give something away. To do something for the good of someone else.
There is such profound truth in Jesus' words, "If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you'll lose it, but if you let that life go, you'll get life on God's terms." (Luke 17:33 MSG) Pursuing all that life has to offer when it is only for our own sakes is pointless. Our appetite for more is endless. If I can quote U2 here, "too much is never enough." It's true. Those who spend their time and resources acquiring things for their own pleasure are, generally speaking, very unhappy at the core of their being. I know this is true because I've done it myself. There have been seasons in my life when I've thought, if I could just get a new camera, or a new iPod, or if I could just eat at that new restaurant, then I'll be satisfied. But the pursuit of ones own happiness can be just as addictive and unfulfilling as heroin. The hit feels good when you first make a purchase, but the satisfaction only lasts for a while before you need another hit to maintain your high.
I need to constantly remind myself of this truth: consumerism ultimately will not bring me joy. It's only in giving my life away for the sake of others that true joy and happiness is achieved. I can think of no greater thing than to spend my life in the pursuit of serving others, particularly the "least of these" that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25:31-46. That is where we find life in all it's fulness - in serving others, in giving ourselves away. When God decides my time here is done, I hope to leave with an empty house and an overflowing heart.